Wednesday, November 12 by joegorun
I’ve been commuting to work in the Plainsboro and West Windsor area on and off for 8 years, and bikes were always a central focus of my life. Post-college, the bike was replaced with the car, shuttling from one commitment to the next. With increasing work responsibilities, I lost sight of what matters most. I started focusing on convenience over happiness and status over health. After a few years the longer car commutes, office lunches, and stress started taking a mental and physical toll. Gym memberships collected dust, and bigger pants couldn’t solve the problems any longer. Suddenly I didn’t recognize myself. A year ago I had an “awakening” and realized it was time for a number of changes, including a commitment to consistently commute by bike no matter what.
Today, it’s going well. As it turns out, this area is actually amazing for biking to work, to the store, or just for fun. Often it’s actually EASIER than driving. You have your choice of bike lanes, bike paths, or even roads, and it’s getting even better thanks to the hard work of many people. More importantly, there is a growing tolerance on the roads, and most drivers are also closet bicyclists just waiting to start bike commuting as well. You can even expand your biking with a simple bus or train excursion.
My commute brings me past the beautiful fields of Stult’s Farm, down the boulevard-esque bike lanes of Southfield Road, and even through Mercer County Park, where I routinely pass dozens of deer. I’ve also rode in rain, floods, and snow, and enjoyed every minute. I take in the beautiful scenery and admire the changing seasons, all from the seat of my bike.
Riding a bike is more than just exercise or cost savings; it’s fun too. It’s the high gear to happiness!
Wednesday, October 29 by joegorun
Four Princeton-area residents participated in a weeklong bicycle ride in October from Philadelphia to Fredericksburg, Va. to promote the East Coast Greenway (www.greenway.org), a 2,900-mile urban version of the Appalachian Trail that links cities from the Canadian border in Maine down to Key West in Florida.
The four, Robert Russo of Belle Mead, Dan Rappoport of Princeton and neighbors Melinda Posipanko and Silvia Ascarelli of West Windsor, bicycled on everything from trails to quiet streets to roads with plenty of traffic, and across the National Mall in Washington. Together, they raised more than $11,000 for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit organization that is working with state and local partners to put more of the route on trails and quiet roads.
The 325-mile ride is an annual event, but the location changes. The goal to ride one section of the East Coast Greenway a year (hence the name, the Week-a-Year Ride) and finish in Key West in 2019. The 2013 ride came through Princeton and West Windsor because the East Coast Greenway includes the D&R Canal Towpath from New Brunswick to Trenton.
“This annual ride provides an exploratory trip to experience the economic impact that off-road trails can and do provide to the different communities that we ride through,” said Robert Russo, who is the treasurer for the East Coast Greenway Alliance. “We get to meet with government leaders in the different states to emphasize the economic and health benefits of a growing off-road trail network.”
All 40-plus riders met with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, who is considered the most bike-friendly governor in the U.S. By the end of 2017, 60% of the East Coast Greenway route in that state should be off roads. Overall, about 30% of the route is now off roads, and the vision is to get all of it away from traffic.
Dan Rappoport has participated in three of the four rides so far, only missing the first, from Calais, Maine to Portland, Maine. In 2013, the ride from Hartford, Conn. to Philadelphia took him past his childhood home in Cranford. Riding down the East Coast, he says, is his substitute for the dream of a cross-country bike ride.
The ride was Melinda Posipanko’s first multi-day tour. She loved how the Greenway crafts safe routes by connecting existing trails with quiet roads wherever possible. She was particularly impressed that the route did not go out of its way to avoid less fortunate neighborhoods in the cities and towns it passed through thereby enhancing the possibility that bike tourism will bring economic benefits to these areas.
Like the others, Silvia Ascarelli, a first-time east Coast Greenway rider, is taken with the vision of a route from Canada to Key West. While Delaware is making impressive strides with its off-road trails, she was equally wowed with the well-used network of trails in Maryland from Baltimore to Washington that made riding there a pleasure. For more about this year’s ride, read her blog, www.exploringbybike.wordpress.com
The 2015 version of the ride will pick up where this one ended, in Fredericksburg, and will end in Raleigh, North Carolina. This will be a more difficult ride than in previous years due to longer mileage and fewer greenway sections, so it will be geared toward advanced cyclists. Anyone interested in participating can email email@example.com for more information.
In the attached photo, from left:
Silvia Ascarelli of West Windsor, Melinda Posipanko of West Windsor, former New Jersey resident Ed Majtenyi, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Robert Russo of Belle Mead, Dan Rappoport of Princeton
Friday, September 19 by JerryFoster
Consider the following scenario – you’re stopped in traffic by a long line of cars waiting for the light – this being New Jersey, you move up the shoulder, where there’s plenty of room. Unfortunately, a car turning left through a gap in the waiting cars hits you – who gets the ticket?
Would it be any different if you were riding a bike up the shoulder? Who would get the ticket then?
What if you were riding your bike in a bike lane instead of a shoulder – now who gets the ticket?
The motorist or cyclist on the shoulder would get the ticket, since shoulders are not for traveling – the cyclist in a bike lane would “only” be injured, not ticketed, since s/he has legal right of way.
This scenario is based on a real life incident in Chatham, where a cyclist on the shoulder was hospitalized and ticketed for unsafely passing cars on the right when he crashed into a car turning left into a drugstore driveway. As the Polzo v Essex County ruling confirmed, “a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder.”
So cycling in the travel lane or a bike lane provides legal right of way, but what about safe operating conditions?
The NJ Supreme Court ruled that travel lanes and shoulders do not need to be maintained for safe cycling – “Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers peculiar to bicycles.” “Roadways generally are intended for and used by operators of vehicles.” “A ‘vehicle’ is defined as ‘every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or motorized bicycles.’”
Bike lanes offer safe operating conditions – “A public entity’s designation of a portion of the roadway as a bicycle lane would alter the generally intended use of that part of the road and would require the public entity to maintain it in a reasonably safe manner for those purposes.”
So here’s the score:
- Bike Lanes – right of way and safe operating conditions
- Travel Lane – right of way but operating conditions sufficient for vehicles only, not bikes
- Shoulder – neither right of way nor safe operating conditions
The court provided NJ cyclists with another option to gain safe operating conditions for specific roadway or shoulder segments – notify the maintaining entity (state, county or municipality) that you routinely cycle on a specific road or shoulder. “Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder of Parsonage Hill Road was designated as a bicycle lane or routinely used as one.” “We need not address here the standard of care that might apply under the Torts Claims Act if a roadway’s shoulder were routinely used as a bicycle lane and the public entity responsible for the maintenance of that roadway was on notice of that use.”
Will adoption of a Complete Streets policy provide a future court sufficient evidence of intended use by cyclists? If so, cyclists would enjoy a better standard of care for travel lanes, though perhaps not as good as for bike lanes.
2 Comments »
Friday, September 12 by JerryFoster
Now our 4th annual survey, WWBPA volunteers counted 343 bicyclists and pedestrians at 3 locations around the train station on Wednesday September 10, 2014 between 5-8pm. Last year the count was 334, but the numbers are not directly comparable, since we counted at 5 locations last year. Comparing the same locations at the same times, biking and walking increased 24% over last year (which had decreased 18% from the year earlier). The weather cooperated this year, only 80 degrees and mostly sunny, in contrast to last year’s hot (90 degrees) and humid day.
Once again we participated in the National Bicycle and Pedestrian Documentation Project, an effort to accurately and consistently measure usage and demand for bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Our 2014 findings:
- Cranbury/Wallace/571 (Rite Aid) – 28 bike, 113 walk
- Scott/Alexander (Arts Center) – 34 bike, 106 walk, 2 others
- Vaughn/Alexander (bus stop) – 18 bike, 42 walk
Total: 343 people, 80 who bike, 261 who walk, 2 on motorized wheelchairs or skateboards
Thanks to our volunteers!
Traffic along 571 in downtown West Windsor flowed freely except from 6:00-6:04pm, likely due to 2 different trains from NYC arriving within 5 minutes of each other.
- midblock crossings of 571 at Rite Aid driveway – 8
- male – 243, female – 98 (“Other” gender data not collected)
- walkers – 261, cyclists – 80
- male cyclists – 70, female cyclists – 10
- male walkers – 173, female walkers – 88
- At 571, 4 semi trucks, two traveling together at 7:35pm
- At 571, 11 car honks, none directed at cyclists or pedestrians (most re left turning, a few at the 571 merge point where 2 lanes decrease to 1 southbound)
- At 571, the vast majority of cyclists wore helmets
- At 571, one couple relaxed in the pocket park for about 10 minutes
Friday, August 29 by JerryFoster
The NJ Supreme Court ruled in 2012 re the county’s potential liability for surface defects on the shoulder that a cyclist was riding on when she crashed and subsequently died (Polzo v Essex County). The ruling generated concern that cyclists riding on the shoulder may be treated differently by the legal system than those in a bike lane, but after reading the ruling carefully, I believe that concern is unfounded.
The court found:
1. The depression caused the tragic fatality.
2. “The Motor Vehicle Code provides that a “roadway” is the portion of highway generally used for vehicular travel; the “shoulder” borders the roadway and is for emergency use; and “vehicles” are not bicycles. Bicyclists are directed to ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. While they may be inclined to ride on the shoulder, they have no special privileges if they do.”
3. “Public entities do not have the ability or resources to remove all dangers specific to bicycles.”
The ruling is clear to this point – cyclists riding on the road or shoulder may not expect a standard of care specific to bicycles. Cyclists may be dismayed by the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, but there is equality between the roadway and shoulder re the standard of care. “No special privileges” does not mean “at your own risk.”
They then examined if the actual depression was a dangerous condition under the Tort Claim Act, noting “Under the TCA, a dangerous condition means a condition that creates a substantial risk of injury when such property is used with due care in a manner in which it is reasonably foreseeable that it will be used.”
They might have stayed with the logic that cyclists riding on the shoulder have no special privileges, because the law says shoulders are not part of the roadway, and only roadways are generally intended to be used by bicycles under the law (to the extent bicycles are an intended use even though they’re not vehicles).
But no, they said:
4. “Plaintiff offered no evidence that the shoulder was routinely used as a bicycle lane, which might implicate a different standard of care.”
So a shoulder that is “routinely used as a bicycle lane” might be expected to be held to a “different standard of care,” though presumably not to the extent as to “remove all dangers specific to bicycles.”
Since evidence of routine use may determine generally intended purpose and trigger a different standard of care, concern re a distinction between shoulders and bike lanes is unnecessary, in my not-a-lawyer view.
Perhaps the plaintiff’s lawyer should have introduced NJDOT standards for bicycle compatible shoulders as evidence of intended purpose, but in any case Essex County now has a Complete Streets policy that clarifies that bicycling is an intended purpose for county roads.
While cyclists are rightly concerned about the NJ Motor Vehicle Code, the suit was primarily about tort claims, which used the MVC only to determine intended purpose, and even finding none with regard to shoulders, ignored it in favor of a standard of evidence of routine use.
7 Comments »
Thursday, July 31 by JerryFoster
Fireflies photo by Chris Egnoto (used with permission)
Welcome back guest blogger Don Pillsbury sharing some of his cycling incidents and a great picture courtesy of his friend.
There are many benefits from cycling. Personally, what I have learned most from regularly riding my bike is the art of improvising. No matter how well you plan, it is inevitable, at some point; you will encounter a situation that requires you to “make do.” Such is the time my headlight inexplicably gave out. (Fortunately it was the peak of firefly season and the iridescent insects guided my way along the D&R Canal Towpath – it is one of my most cherished memories.)
Or riding along and having the crank/pedal fall off. (I had read about a one-legged cyclist and decided to see what it is like.) Or like getting to the office and discovering the set of clothes you distinctly remember leaving there before hand were not to be found. (That situation took some creativity.)
You can only pack a set amount of tools, spare parts, gear, and equipment.
After that, it’s a matter of keep calm and ride on – with creativity and humor.
Thank you Don! If you would like to write about your experience in a guest post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, June 23 by JerryFoster
Please welcome back guest contributor Don Pillsbury.
Don’t I need to be a “Jock” to ride my bike to work?
When co-workers see me riding my bike to work, they often assume I’ve always been some sort of athletic super hero. And while riding does occasionally simulate the sensation of “flying,” I’m no Superman. I’ve never participated in any organized sport (well, except for the office volleyball league) and I don’t follow any professional teams. People familiar with my younger years are always surprised to hear about my cycling adventures.
As I meet other bike commuters, that pattern seems oddly common. A co-worker, who commutes 12 miles throughout the year, in all sorts of weather, said she hated gym class in school – she was always the last one selected for any activity. This same person became indignant when asked about her commute being exercise. To her, it was about saving money. A friend, who also commutes 12 miles year round, doesn’t mention his cycling during a routine annual exam with his physician and is then shocked when the doctor suggests the need for exercise – despite his trim physique.
For the bike commuters I meet, cycling isn’t exercise it’s just a means of getting to their destination.
One other trait I’ve noticed: the complete lack of remorse about eating whatever they want.
What is your background? If you commute with your bike, some or a lot, please let me know whether you consider yourself athletic or not. I can be reached at: drPillsbury@comcast.net.
Thanks Don! If you’d like to write a guest post, pls email email@example.com.
1 Comment »
Monday, June 16 by JerryFoster
Please welcome WW resident Jake Herway, who’s launching an exciting new addition to the area’s cycling tourist industry, NJ Bike Tours. He’s also helping The Farm Roll scenic bike tour, coming up Sunday, June 22, proceeds to benefit our friends at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed. Here’s his story:
“Now a resident of West Windsor, I grew up riding through the picturesque landscapes of Europe, savoring the rich history, unique architecture, and European patisserie’s and cuisine. New Jersey was the last, dead last, place I expected to rival that experience. I was wrong.
NJ bike tours started when I discovered a hidden gem in the back roads of a state I assumed was nothing but concrete, electric wires, and grime. Hidden to millions who visit, live in, or avoid New Jersey is a rich history, beautiful farm country, stunning views, and fresh, delicious food that create an energizing cycling adventure. My goal with NJ bike tours is to share the beauty, fun, and discovery of a hidden Garden State, only a few pedal strokes off the beaten path.”
1 Comment »
Friday, June 13 by JerryFoster
Please welcome Brian Clissold as our guest commuter this week, a trustee of the WWBPA and a resident of East Windsor. A version of this post appeared on his blog, Roadmaestro. Brian, what’s your secret?
Here it is…wait for it….wait for it………CONSISTENCY!!
Yep, that’s it. That’s my big piece of advice for folks who want to commute by bike. Just like any other lifestyle change, it’s the act of doing it over and over, until it becomes routine, that makes it part of your life.
Now, it’s not that easy. “Sticking with it” is all rainbows and unicorns. What it really means is getting into the routine the night before, or even the week before, by packing clothes, packing lunches, mid-morning snacks (I always get hungry by 10 am when I commute), baby wipes, figuring out the timing, the logistics of parking, when you’re going to apply make up (if that’s necessary), bicycle maintenance, and what to do with all the extra cash you’ll be saving by not buying gas. Whew! It doesn’t sound so easy after all. If you’re content with just learning this concept and can figure out the details, you can be done reading now and go for a bike ride. If you need some more tips, read on.
My ride is just long enough that I prefer to ride in bike clothes rather than my work clothes. So, Sunday night I try to make sure I have enough bike clothes clean for the week. I also make sure I have a day or two of work clothes. The weekend is also when I do any touch up maintenance: pump up the tires, lube the chain, make any minor adjustments, etc. Lights get charged and fresh batteries as needed.
Each night I pack my bike bag (one rear pannier, or a bag that mounts to a rear rack on my bike) with the next day’s work clothes, hair goop, a towel, my headphones, reading material for the train. Much of this stuff just stays in the bag. I also bring in my thermos and water bottle from my bike, and make the coffee so it starts automatically in the morning.
In the morning, I shower, pack my pannier the rest of the way with my lunch, put on my bike clothes, fill my thermos and water bottle, turn on the lights, and head out. Once I reach the train station, I put my bike in its locker, go into the station and change into my work clothes, and get on the train. I take my stuff with me to the office so I can hang my clothes to dry. Also, I change back into my bike clothes in the train bathroom on the way home so I can get right on the bike and get home.
So this is kind of a lot of work, but I’ve been doing this long enough now that it is more of a nuisance to change out of the routine than to stick with it. The rare days that I have to drive to work really throw me off now, both in terms of the routine and also in my mindset. Driving is such a headache!
I should definitely add that my routine is supported by my amazing wife Abbi, who helps me out in a variety of ways, such as putting away leftovers in single serve containers to make it easy to toss them in, doing laundry, and being generally supportive! Thanks Hunny!!
There are a million tips for bike commuters, especially for newbies. I highly recommend spending some time on the blog, bikecommuters.com There is lots of good stuff there, from equipment reviews to riding tips for bad weather.
Go pack your stuff and start to make riding to work part of your daily, weekly, and monthly routine. It is an amazing lifestyle choice!!
Thanks Brian – if you’d like to share your bike commuting stories, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, June 6 by JerryFoster
Please welcome Jenny Goodman as this week’s guest commuter, and contact email@example.com to share your experiences.
OK, after the long, long, winter, it’s going to be 60 degrees and no rain, I picked up my son’s friend and dropped them both off at school, the 606 bus leaves at 8:12, so I have 15 minutes to get my bike shorts, t-shirt, bike shoes, helmet and gloves and get over to the bus stop. You see I am somewhat of a wimp. I don’t ride when it’s cold (and this morning it’s 35 degrees), in the rain, or in the snow.
I made it. The bike goes on the front of the NJ Transit bus in a really cool, super-easy-to-maneuver bike rack. While I have a few panic attacks as we go over some wicked potholes, hoping my bike won’t get thrown off the rack and smashed by the bus, my stop comes up with everything still intact. My work is about a ½ mile from the stop, so I bike over looking like a dork with my jeans tucked into my white socks.
My bike is a steel 1980 Reynolds 531 double-butted Puch that has Campanolo pedals with toe straps with over 10,000 miles on it. (Though truth be told, I don’t even tighten up the toe straps, nor have cleats anymore.) Talk about retro. The fork was also 531 but was crushed when I flipped over the hood of a car pulling out of the Hightstown McDonalds in 1993. We got it fixed and painted by Andreas Cuevas (that might mean something to somebody out there). And it has beautiful lugs.
Work is finally over and I set out on my first ride of the season, April 1. I have a great commute from Ewing to Princeton on the Princeton Pike, which has a great shoulder almost the whole way. Not too long and not too short, about 11 miles one way. The only bad part is fighting for position on the bridge over Stony Brook. Pretty hairy. Yeah, I know, there is a separate bike lane you can ride on, but between the frost heaves and the mud and gravel at the bottom of a turn coming off the bridge, I’d rather take my chances. The first ride home of the season is so pleasant. First I pass Halo Farms with its plastic herd of dairy cows. No joke, you should go see them. Through the parking lot of the Trenton’s Farmer’s Market, dodging a thousand pieces of glass, past the “Win, Place, and Smoke” shop, then on to the open road.
I thought I would feel worse than this for the first ride of the season. A previous blogger (and neighbor of mine) says NJ is like Holland, nice and flat. Well, that’s true I guess, but not on your first ride of the season, especially up the hill into Princeton past the Battlefield Park. Coming into town is my favorite part of bike commuting – being passed by some cars in a hurry and then proceeding to pass them back while they wait in traffic at a stop sign or light. And now that Nassau Street has sharrows, I feel so legit giving myself enough room so I don’t get slammed by a car door opening up. I make it home in one piece (again). And tomorrow looks like it will be nice for another ride home.
Jenny Goodman has been bike commuting off and on (on nice days) for about 25 years. She is entitled to be a wimp, having ridden with her husband across North America, from Alaska to Montana, from Portugal to Switzerland, Maine to New Brunswick, and from NJ to Canada twice in the wind, snow, sleet, rain, blazing sun, and bugs (including a swarm of huge grasshoppers in Saskatchewan).
A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.
1 Comment »